Former Baylor equestrian athlete sues university over rape

(Photo by Rissa Shaw)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) A former member of Baylor's Equestrian team is suing the university over how it handled her reported rape involving football players in November of 2017.

The lawsuit was filed in a Waco federal court Wednesday.

While the three players are no longer enrolled at the school, the complainant, listed in the suit as Jane Doe, says she was forced to leave campus and her equestrian scholarship behind due to "indifference and retaliation" from the university.

"Among other actions, Baylor made Doe vulnerable to an unsafe and discriminatory environment by the adoption and then the continuance of an official policy of condoning sexual assaults and exploitation by Baylor football players," the suit reads.

According to the complaint, Doe was raped three months into her freshman year by two football players while a third took snapchat videos of the sexual activity.

A fourth respondent, a fellow equestrian team member, also shared videos of the incident at University Parks Apartments on Nov. 12, 2017, the result of a post-game party at the complex and bar stop at Scruffy Murphy's near campus.

In the suit, Doe says she was incapacitated when she and a friend were sexually assaulted, and while she was intoxicated, says she remembers not giving consent, but when she told that to Title IX investigators, she was manipulated and shamed.

"When Doe told Noble that she had told one of her assailants to “stop,” Noble questioned whether she said “no” forcefully enough: “Do you think though from. . . [his] perspective, he took it as stop don’t ever do that again?” the suit reads.

Doe says investigators weren't the only avenue of shame she walked at Baylor: she says upper-class equestrian team members blamed her and other younger members of the team for the assaults, calling them "sluts."

She says the backlash caused her to delay reporting the assault for several days, and when she did, she says the Baylor system failed her despite the university's claims it had fixed historic issues of mishandling sexual assaults and failures to comply with Title IX.

"Despite the ongoing national scandal, the Margolis Healy Report, the Pepper Hamilton Report, and ongoing investigations by the U.S. Department of Education, the Texas Rangers, the NCAA, and the Big 12, Baylor wholly failed to implement and abide by its clear responsibilities under Title IX," the suit reads. "The Regents' assurances were words only; indeed, they turned into another form of Baylor's deliberate indifference to the ongoing sexual assault problem on its campus."

Baylor vehemently denies the claims made in suit and says the case "complex."

"More than 30 individuals were interviewed as part of the University’s investigation process. Contrary to the allegations in the complaint, Baylor’s Title IX policies and procedures were followed in how the incident was reported, investigated and ultimately adjudicated – from the initial report to the final adjudication.

Baylor is also committed to providing a caring environment for survivors while working to determine the facts in each case to ensure a fair and equitable process for all involved parties."

According to university spokesperson Lori Fogleman, Asst. VP of Media and Public Relations for Baylor, the same day Athletics officials learned about the incident, they reported the matter to Baylor's Title IX Office and subsequently suspended the respondents from all team activities within 36 hours of the incident report.

"Additionally, interim measures were coordinated by the Title IX Office during the pendency of the investigation to limit contact among the involved parties as reasonably as possible," said Fogleman.

However, Doe says the university's actions to protect her from her attackers was poor, and while they were suspended from football, still received team tutoring and access to the athletes-only dining facility where she came into contact with them on more than one occasion, even after she was made to change her own schedule.

"Baylor’s deliberate indifference and inaction to stop retaliation by the assailants made Doe vulnerable to further abuse by the football players, including stalking and other threatening behaviors, and actually caused her to suffer further abuse, up to the day she left Baylor’s campus in May 2018," the suit reads.

None of the respondents are currently enrolled either, University officials say, following an extensive investigation by the Title IX Office, and all of the respondents were found responsible for one or more of the allegations against them.

"The University works tirelessly not only to respond to allegations of assault, but to prevent such incidents from occurring in the first place," said Fogleman. "Baylor is also committed to providing a caring environment for survivors while working to determine the facts in each case to ensure a fair and equitable process for all involved parties"

In June of 2018, a McLennan County grand jury failed to indict at least two of the respondents in the case.

Doe says it took nearly a year for the university to finish her investigation - which is supposed to be completed within 60 days - and in May of 2018, her father wrote a letter of disappointment to President Linda Livingstone.

"Doe’s father’s letter provided details to President Livingstone of Baylor’s deliberate indifference toward Doe’s complaints and safety, including the excessive time for the investigation to be completed, the interviewers’ resistance to believing Doe’s story, the Plaintiff’s Original Complaint and
interviewers attempted coercion of Doe to admit consent to the sexual assault, Baylor’s allowing public media to be present on campus to report on the sexual abuse scandal surrounding Doe’s complaint, Baylor’s punishing Doe by reducing the hours she was allowed to be present in the athletes-only dining hall and tutoring sessions, and Baylor’s not removing the perpetrators from the campus during the entire school year," the suit states. "The letter concluded with the observation: “Baylor’s adoption of written policies and procedures as part of addressing its past transgressions in Title IX matters has in practice simply shifted the abuse of victims to a fully institutionalized process.”

The document went on to say, Livingstone responded with a letter of "mostly denial" in which she offered her "thoughts and prayers" and wrote, "I was truly disheartened to read your letter, as it does not reflect the values of Baylor nor the significant improvements we have made over the past few years in the training, prevention and management of instances of interpersonal and sexual violence within our campus community.”

Baylor University has been under the microscope following the 2016 bombshell about the university's mishandling of sexual assaults which led to the firing of Head Football Coach Art Briles and President Ken Starr, as well as other terminations and resignations from top athletics officials.